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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (8)
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Caring for People's Livelihood

128. Government has devoted substantial resources to improving people's livelihood.  Apart from education, healthcare services and social welfare are also the main areas of government spending.  The estimated recurrent expenditure on these three areas for 2016-17 is $198 billion, accounting for 60 per cent of recurrent government expenditure.  This represents an increase of over 80 per cent when compared with ten years ago.

Investing in Healthcare

129. Recurrent expenditure on medical and health in 2016-17 is $57 billion, accounting for 16.5 per cent of recurrent government expenditure.  This represents an increase of more than 90 per cent when compared with a decade ago.  To cope with an ageing population, Government has set aside a dedicated provision of $200 billion for a ten-year hospital development plan to enable the Hospital Authority (HA) to expand and upgrade healthcare facilities in a more flexible and long-term manner.

130. The development plan is a vast investment.  It will provide 5 000 additional hospital beds, representing an increase of 18 per cent.  Operating theatres will increase by 40 per cent to 320.  Specialist outpatient service capacity will increase substantially by 40 per cent from 6.8 million to 10 million attendances a year.  At the district level, community health centres will be set up in Mong Kok, Shek Kip Mei and North District.  Additional services for 410 000 attendances will be provided at the general outpatient clinics each year.

131. The development plan will cover the redevelopment and expansion of a number of hospitals including Kwong Wah Hospital, United Christian Hospital, Queen Mary Hospital, Kwai Chung Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital, Haven of Hope Hospital, Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital, Operating Theatre Block of Tuen Mun Hospital, North District Hospital, Lai King Building of Princess Margaret Hospital and Grantham Hospital.

132. As for new hospital projects, an acute general hospital will be built in the Kai Tak Development Area.  The two-phased project will be commissioned in ten years and will provide 2 400 beds and facilities such as an oncology centre and the first neuroscience centre in Hong Kong.

133. Government will allocate $10 billion to HA to set up an endowment fund to generate investment returns for enhancing public-private partnership programmes.  Government will also provide a loan of $4 billion to the Chinese University of Hong Kong for developing a non-profit making private hospital.

Supporting the Underprivileged

134. Government has made proactive efforts to help those in need through social welfare measures.  Recurrent expenditure on social welfare for 2016-17 is estimated at $66 billion, accounting for 19 per cent of recurrent government expenditure.  This has doubled when compared with ten years ago.

135. The Elderly Commission (EC) is pressing ahead with the formulation of the Elderly Services Programme Plan for Hong Kong.  In the meantime, Government is putting in place a series of forward-planning initiatives to meet the challenges brought about by the continuous growth in demand for elderly services due to an ageing population, including íV

(a) strengthening and enhancing community care services to support "ageing in place", the cherished wish of elderly persons.  Since 2015-16, Government has increased recurrent expenditure by $170 million to provide 1 600 additional places for the Enhanced Home and Community Care Services.  Starting from 2016-17, a recurrent provision of $17 million will be allocated to provide 160 additional day care places for the elderly;

(b) speeding up the provision and improving the quality of residential care places for the elderly.  We shall allocate a recurrent provision of $140 million from 2016-17 onwards to provide more subsidised residential care places, enhance existing residential care services and progressively upgrade 1 200 places under the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme;

(c) providing more elderly facilities.  We have reserved space in 15 development projects or vacant buildings for the provision and conversion of existing facilities into residential care homes and day care centres for the elderly.  We are pressing ahead with the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses to provide additional places for elderly services through the redevelopment or expansion of existing service facilities; and

(d) piloting a new model of elderly services.  Since September 2013, Government has launched, with $1 billion from the Lotteries Fund, the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly which adopts the "money-following-the-user" and "co-payment" approaches.  The pilot scheme will be extended to all 18 districts in the territory this year and the number of service vouchers will be increased to 3 000.  EC is also actively examining the implementation of the Pilot Scheme on Residential Care Service Voucher for the Elderly.  Government has earmarked $800 million for providing 3 000 service vouchers under the three-year pilot scheme.

136. Since the launch of the Reverse Mortgage Programme in 2011, the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Limited (HKMC) has received 1 000 applications.  The number of applications in 2015 increased by 80 per cent when compared with 2014.  We shall step up promotion efforts to enable more eligible senior citizens to receive stable monthly income under the programme, with a view to improving the quality of life in their own home.  To allow more elderly owners of subsidised housing units to join the programme, I propose that HKMC should explore with relevant organisations the feasibility of extending the programme to cover subsidised sale flats with premium not yet paid.

137. Many of our senior citizens are looking for investment products with steady returns.  I encourage the sector to tap into the immense potential of this silver market by introducing a larger spectrum of appropriate products.  Government will launch a pilot scheme to issue Silver Bond this year and next year, targeting at Hong Kong residents aged 65 or above, with a maturity of three years for the first issuance.  HKMA will announce the details in due course.

138. Our society is ageing.  This has far-reaching implications for our future public finances.  I have earmarked $50 billion to improve the retirement protection for the elderly in need.  The Commission on Poverty is conducting a public engagement exercise on how retirement protection can be improved.  Any retirement protection scheme must be financially sustainable to avoid shifting the significant retirement protection expenses to future generations.  I hope that all sectors of the community will keep an open mind and work together to explore sustainable proposals that meet the needs of Hong Kong.

139. In respect of children and family, Government will allocate a recurrent provision of $2.9 billion to implement the Low-income Working Family Allowance Scheme starting this year.  The scheme aims to alleviate intergenerational poverty through encouraging employment and assisting poor families with children.

140. Government seeks to help women to manage family commitments alongside work.  On top of the additional places of Extended Hours Service for eligible child care centres last year, an additional 3 800 places will be provided in phases.  A pilot scheme will also be introduced in the first quarter of this year to provide child care training for grandparents.

141. Starting from 2016-17, we shall allocate a recurrent provision of $180 million to strengthen various residential care services, special transport services and community support services for persons with disabilities, and to provide support services for children with special needs and their families.

142. Many people are concerned about how Government will deal with the unused subsidies of the one-off electricity charges subsidy scheme.  The validity period of this relief measure will last until the end of June 2016.  Up till last October, seven per cent of households eligible for the subsidy still had unused credits in their accounts.  I shall extend for the last time the validity period of the unused subsidies for two years to 30 June 2018.

(To be continued.)

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:11

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